Yad Vashem

Yad Vashem

Yad Vashem in Jerusalem is a museum and Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.

History of Yad Vashem

Beginning with the persecution of the Jews in Germany in 1933, the Nazi Party, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, began a campaign in which Jews and other social and ethnic groups were taken into forced labour and extermination camps, suffering torture, intolerable conditions and mass executions. Over six million Jews died during the Holocaust, and at least five million people from other ethnic or social groups which the Nazis also deemed ‘undesirable’ were murdered alongside them.

The founding of the State of Israel is inextricably linked with this event, and Yad Vashem was established in 1953 – the name comes from Isaiah 56:5, and literally means ‘a memorial and a name’.

Yad Vashem today

Most visitors to Yad Vashem spend their time at the Holocaust History Museum – it’s incredibly moving and worth visiting. Unlike other Holocaust memorial sites, Yad Vashem details the events which preceded the Holocaust, and explains how and why anti-Semitism was so prevalent across Europe around this period. It tells the story of this grim and tragic chapter of history through exhibits including photographs, victims’ accounts, art installations and information panels.

The Hall of Names remains one of the most moving parts of the whole sight, and it’s not unusual to see people leaving in tears: the hole in the floor symbolises all of those who died whose names will never be known as everyone who might have remembered or mourned them perished too. It’s hard to find the words to describe the harrowing nature of some of what’s on display, but this makes Yad Vashem all the more important a site to visit and remember.

Yad Vashem’s founders also wanted to honour gentiles who helped save the lives of Jewish people and in doing so, put their own at risk: they are remembered in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations.

The site is closed on Friday afternoons and Saturday: it’s not recommend that you take young children to Yad Vashem: the content isn’t suitable and ultimately, it’s a memorial and a place for sombre learning and understanding.

Getting to Yad Vashem

Yad Vashem is on Mount Herzl, a short way out of the city of Jerusalem. There’s ample parking on site, but you can also catch the train to the JLR Mt Herzl stop. It’s a gentle 10 minute uphill walk from here to the site itself, or you can also wait for the free shuttle bus which runs 3 times an hour.

Yad Vashem, Power, and the Politics of History

At Yad Vashem. (Photo: David Langstaff/supplied)

By David Langstaff

“I was like other men,
I fed on bread, and on dreams, and on
despair. I too
loved, I cried, I hated, I suffered…
But when you dry this bouquet of nettles,
that once was me, in a future time
when my story seems dated to you
remember that I was innocent
that like you, the bodied of your own day,
I too had a face
defined in anger, in pity, in joy
I had a man’s face.” — Benjamin Fondane, who perished in the Nazi gas chambers (displayed inside Yad Vashem) (1)

“In the hymns that we sing, there’s a
In the flute that shelters us
In the fire that we feed
a green phoenix
In its elegy I couldn’t tell
my ashes from your dus.” — Mahmoud Darwish, who was exiled from his homeland by Zionist settler-colonialism (2)

As my friend and I made our way to Yad Vashem, the world-renowned Holocaust memorial museum in West Jerusalem, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of trepidation. I was nearing the end of a two-month stint working with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in the West Bank, and the experience had left me understandably sensitive to the eminently political character of all history-making. After nearly two months of being exposed time and again to the ways in which Zionism wields a particular version of history like a bludgeon against Palestinians, the questions running through my mind were somewhat less than hopeful: What kind of politic should I expect to undergird this museum’s framing of one of the twentieth century’s greatest tragedies? Would this framing be a worthy tribute to those millions whose lives were extinguished, or would it disgrace their memory by cynically exploiting it for political ends? Would its representation of history help us to deepen our understanding of the forces which generated the Nazi genocide (forces which can hardly be regarded as safely relegated to some fossilized past, but rather which are alive and well in the relations which constitute our present world) or would it instead turn history against us, constructing a portrait of the past which blinds us to the cruelties and perils of the present?

The answers to these questions, as it turned out, were ambiguous, but perhaps not as ambiguous as I might have wished. In fairness, the museum certainly had redeeming qualities. Yad Vashem did manage to capture the humanity – by which I mean the sensuousness and affective texture of human experience which often reveals itself only in the most mundane and idiosyncratic of stories – of those millions of Jews who were slaughtered with the kind of dispassionate calculation that only modernity could have produced, (3) while still giving one some sense of the larger historical forces that were at work. I will grant it that. But, sadly, in many other respects the museum lived up to my worst expectations.

First, while Yad Vashem’s exhibits were not entirely devoid of historicity, the museum largely conformed to an understanding of antisemitism and the Nazi genocide which sees them not merely as unique but as exceptional historical phenomena. From this perspective, antisemitism is regarded as a transhistorical and essentially inexplicable product of some inherent Gentile hatred it may have had distinct iterations, but has always been and will remain the irrational axis upon which the relations between Jews and non-Jews turn. Similarly, the Nazi genocide is treated as the face of evil itself, an event so (quantitatively) colossal and so (qualitatively) monstrous that no other episode in history can reasonably be compared to it. Second, the museum gave one the impression that the victims of the Nazi genocide were almost exclusively Jewish, in spite of the fact that millions of others perished in the Nazi death machinery.

The third concern with Yad Vashem is, in some regards, the gravitational center around which the museum’s other problematic dimensions revolve: namely its teleological representation of the relationships between the long history of antisemitism, the Nazi genocide, and the formation of the Israeli nation-state, whereby the Nazi genocide appears the inevitable culmination of Gentile hatred towards an allegedly “stateless” Jewry, just as the creation of Israel appears the exclusive means of Jewish redemption. The museum goes so far as to literally walk visitors through this historical sequence step by step, each exhibition of a particular place and time winding in a snake-like movement towards the next, culminating in the creation of Israel and the putative restoration of Jewish dignity. The experience reaches its climax in an unquestionably powerful display: the photos of victims peer down from the center of a circular room, suspended above a dark conical abyss that feels like a pit of despair. Along the walls of the room one can see folder after folder full of the names of those who have been killed (names which are being collected still). Consolation is to be found only upon exiting the museum, when one steps outside to find a scenic viewpoint showcasing a picturesque Jerusalem in all its grandeur, a not-so-subtle symbol of Jewish salvation on Earth.

In these ways, Yad Vashem proved a quintessential example of what the Jewish social critic Norman Finkelstein has called “the Holocaust Industry,” a characterization of the agents and institutions which have produced a hegemonic ideological representation of the Nazi genocide in the service of their narrow interests. For Finkelstein, the development of this industry is essentially a post-1967 phenomenon, one that is closely tied to the US geopolitical alliance with Israel which developed in force after Israel quickly emerged victorious in the 1967 war (and in which Israel plays the role of a crucial, yet subordinate, US partner). The coincident interests were essentially three fold. First, US state and capitalist agencies recognized Israel as a vital outpost for the projection and reproduction of US political-economic power in Southwest Asia and North Africa (particularly as a bulwark against secular Arab nationalism), and came to rely upon the representation of the Nazi genocide as a symbol of the ever-present dangers of antisemitism in an effort to reduce virtually unwavering support for the Israeli state to some kind of absolute moral obligation. Second, in the US, Jewish elites (every ethnic group has its elites, and we Jews are no exception to the rule) saw an opportunity to advance their aspirations of assimilation and upward mobility by embracing Israel and Zionism with renewed vigor, now rationalized by depicting Israel as the only means of escaping an unparalleled and eternal victimhood (even if few had plans to actually emigrate). Finally, Israel was able to repeatedly invoke the Nazi genocide as the justification for the violent constitution of its settler-colonial state, for its original and ongoing ethnic cleansing and subordination of the Palestinian people. (4)

The Holocaust Industry has produced a seductive historical narrative, but it is one which, in my view, both degrades the memory of those who perished in the Nazi Genocide and leaves us incapable of drawing meaningful ethical, analytical, and political lessons from this momentous tragedy. Truly doing justice to all those who lost their lives in the Nazi genocide would mean remembering all of the victims (not only Jews) – and in a manner which does not cynically instrumentalize their suffering – as well as constructing a historical analysis which serves to illuminate the pitfalls and opportunities for advancing the struggle for collective liberation in the present. In order to be ethically viable, then, a Holocaust memorial museum would have to, at a minimum, differ from Yad Vashem in the following respects:

(1) Rather than representing the Nazi genocide as entirely exceptional, as an historical aberration which defies comparison, such a musuem would search out the Nazi holocaust’s commonalities with and differences from other historical events and processes. Incensed at just such exceptionalism in the wake of the Nazi holocaust, and especially the ways in which it ignored comparable European crimes in the colonial world, the Martiniquean poet and social critic Aimé Césaire exclaimed:

“People are surprised, they become indignant. They say: ‘How strange! But never mind-it’s Nazism, it will. pass!’ And they wait, and they hope and they hide the truth from themselves, that it is barbarism, but the supreme barbarism, the crowning barbarism that sums up all the daily barbarisms that it is Nazism, yes, but that before they were its victims, they were its accomplices that they tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimized it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it, and that before engulfing the whole of Western, Christian civilization in its reddened waters, it oozes, seeps, and trickles from every crack.”(5)

And, as Finkelstein points out, the US is hardly exempt from the kind of historical parallels upon which Césaire’s moral indictment of Europe is founded:

“In fact, Hitler modeled his conquest of the East on the American conquest of the West…During the first half of this century, a majority of American states enacted sterilization laws and tens of thousands of Americans were involuntarily sterilized. The Nazis explicitly invoked this US precedent when they enacted their own sterilization laws…The notorious 1935 Nuremburg Laws stripped Jews of the franchise and forbade miscegenation between Jews and non-Jews. Blacks in the American South suffered the same legal disabilities and were the object of much greater spontaneous and sanctioned popular violence than the Jews in prewar Germany.”(6)

Furthermore, the Nazi legacy of racially delineated forced labor and systematic elimination ought to immediately recall the US history of slavery and the genocide of the Native American population. And while Israel’s sympathizers are quick to dismiss any comparison of the Israeli state with Nazi Germany as antisemitic ranting, it takes considerable intellectual acrobatics to avoid drawing any parallels whatsoever: as Nazi Germany directly and indirectly forced Jews to emigrate from or flee their countries, so too has the Israeli state been founded on the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians from their homeland as Nazi Germany herded Jews into ghettos, so too has the Israeli state constructed militarized spatial enclaves in which Palestinians are confined (relatively or absolutely), exploited, and controlled and just as Nazi Germany constructed a racist state which formally subordinated Jews, so too has Israel relegated its Palestinian citizens to third-class status and deemed the indigenous population of Palestine a “demographic threat,” going so far as to pass legislation banning thousands of Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens from living in Israel proper, a political move which in some ways resembles the Nazi introduction of miscegenation laws.(7) It is not by any means my intention to equate the Nazi and Israeli states, which would merely be an exercise in intellectual dishonesty, but rather to say that they have some disturbing resemblances – such as the militarized geographical segregation of populations, the massive dispossession of communities from their homes, and the racist subordination of certain groups not only by way of the military and police but through the politico-juridical apparatus – which are in turn specific outgrowths of processes inherent in the modern world. We ought to take stock of such comparisons and ensure that our indignation over the Nazi genocide does not pass over present-day crimes just as worthy of condemnation. Such a comparative approach would also work to de-exceptionalize the history of antisemitism, and thereby ground the particular struggle against anti-Jewish racism in the more general struggle against racism in all its forms.

(2) Rather than emphasizing the victimization of Jews during the Nazi holocaust to the exclusion of all other communities, such a museum would identify the Nazi violence towards myriad groups, and refrain from situating each group’s suffering in some arbitrary hierarchy of worthiness. There were countless non-Jewish victims of Nazism, from communists to queers. As Finkelstein notes, both Romanis (“Gypsies”) and those who were differently-abled were targeted for systematic elimination. Romani communities suffered causalities which were proportionately comparable to those suffered by European Jews, and there is evidence that the Nazi machinery of genocide was designed first with the differently-abled, rather than the Jews, in mind.(8) In addition to honoring the memory of these communities which similarly suffered a profound tragedy, this more holistic approach serves, like the de-exceptionalization of antisemitism, to open up greater possibilities for using the history of the Nazi holocaust to advance the cause of collective liberation.

(3) Finally, rather than situating the Nazi holocaust within a teleology which leads from the victimization of the European Jewish diaspora under antisemitism to national Jewish redemption within the Land of Israel, such a museum would be attuned to the role of historical contingency in both the development of Nazism and Israeli settler-colonialism. Such a museum would also recognize that Zionism was but one of many Jewish responses to antisemitism. The Nazi genocide was no more a historical inevitability than the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and if we treat it as such, we are left unable to determine its actual roots and dynamics. Meanwhile, Zionism has by no means had the fealty of Jews since its inception. Zionism was and remains contested. In fact, when Zionism first emerged towards the end of the nineteenth century, few Jews identified with its obsession with national consciousness building and its aspirations for building a territorial nation-state as a “Jewish homeland.” Alternative Jewish responses to antisemitism during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries included that of the Bund, a Jewish socialist organization which recognized the particularity of the Jewish struggle against racism and the need for some degree of Jewish autonomy and self-determination, but which simultaneously grounded this struggle in more universal aspirations for collective liberation. Even today, though Zionism is admittedly hegemonic within most Jewish communities, there are also those, such as myself, who regard Zionism as a deplorable and irredeemable enterprise, which shares more in common with Nazism (from its antisemitic precepts to its wider embrace of racism, militarism, authoritarianism, and colonialist expansionism) than it does with any genuine liberation struggle. By bringing contingency and contestation back into the analysis of the relations between antisemitism, Nazism, and the founding of Israel, it becomes possible to fundamentally question the Israeli project of state-building – to ask whether Israel has in fact provided an ethically viable answer to the so-called “Jewish question,” or whether it has merely displaced this question, along with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

The moral weight of the Nazi genocide cannot be overstated, but let us work to ensure that our engagement with its memory advances the cause of collective liberation, rather than an illusory liberation for some gained only through the imposition of violence, indignities, and suffering upon others.

“The unspoken terror permeating our collective memory of the Holocaust (and more than contingently related to the overwhelming desire not to look the memory in its face) is the gnawing suspicion that the Holocaust could be more than an aberration, more than a deviation from an otherwise straight path of progress, more than a cancerous growth on the otherwise healthy body of the civilized society that, in short, the Holocaust was not an antithesis of modern civilization and everything (or so we like to think) it stands for. We suspect (even if we refuse to admit it) that the Holocaust could merely have uncovered another face of the same modern society whose other, more familiar, face we so admire. And that the two faces are perfectly comfortably attached to the same body. What we perhaps fear most, is that each of the two faces can no more exist without the other than can the two sides of a coin.” — Zygmunt Bauman(9)

“Although it is so often taught that Israel became a historical and ethical necessity for the Jews during and after the Nazi genocide, [Hannah] Arendt and others thought that the lesson we must learn from that genocide is that nation-states should never be able to found themselves through the dispossession of whole populations who fail to fit the purified idea of the nation. And for refugees who never again wished to see the dispossession of populations in the name of national or religious purity, Zionism and its forms of state violence were not the legitimate answer to the pressing needs of Jewish refugees. For those who extrapolated principles of justice from the historical experience of internment and dispossession, the political aim is to extend equality regardless of cultural background or formation, across languages and religions, to those none of us ever chose (or did not recognize that we chose) and with whom we have an enduring obligation to find a way to live. For whoever “we” are, we are also those who were never chosen, who emerge on this earth without everyone’s consent, and who belong, from the start, to a wider population and a sustainable earth. And this condition, paradoxically, yields the radical potential for new modes of sociality and politics beyond the avid and wretched bonds of a pernicious colonialism that calls itself democracy. We are all, in this sense, the unchosen, but we are nevertheless unchosen together. On this basis one might begin to think the social bond anew.” — Judith Butler (10)


The name "Yad Vashem" is taken from a verse in the Book of Isaiah: "[To] them will I give in my house and within my walls a [memorial] and a [name], better than sons and daughters I will give them an everlasting [name], that shall not be cut off [from memory]." [4] [5] Hebrew: וְנָתַתִּי לָהֶם בְּבֵיתִי וּבְחוֹמֹתַי יָד וָשֵׁם, טוֹב מִבָּנִים וּמִבָּנוֹת שֵׁם עוֹלָם אֶתֶּן לוֹ, אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִכָּרֵת. ‎). Naming the Holocaust memorial "yad vashem" (Hebrew: יָד וָשֵׁם ‎, yād wā-šêm, literally "a memorial and a name") conveys the idea of establishing a national depository for the names of Jewish victims who have no one to carry their name after death. The original verse referred to eunuchs who, although they could not have children, could still live for eternity with the Lord. [6]

The desire to establish a memorial in the historical Jewish homeland for Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust originated during World War II, in response to emerging accounts of the mass murder of Jews in Nazi-occupied countries. Yad Vashem was first proposed in September 1942, at a board meeting of the Jewish National Fund, by Mordecai Shenhavi, a member of Kibbutz Mishmar Ha'emek. [6] In August 1945, the plan was discussed in greater detail at a Zionist meeting in London. A provisional board of Zionist leaders was established that included David Remez as chairman, Shlomo Zalman Shragai, Baruch Zuckerman, and Shenhavi. In February 1946, Yad Vashem opened an office in Jerusalem and a branch office in Tel Aviv, and in June that year convened its first plenary session. In July 1947, the First Conference on Holocaust Research was held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. However, the outbreak of the 1947–1949 Palestine war brought operations to a standstill for two years.

On 19 August 1953, the Knesset, Israel's Parliament, unanimously passed the Yad Vashem Law, establishing the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, the aim of which was "the commemoration in the Homeland of all those members of the Jewish people who gave their lives, or rose up and fought the Nazi enemy and its collaborators," and to set up "a memorial to them, and to the communities, organizations and institutions that were destroyed because they belonged to the Jewish people." [7]

On 29 July 1954, the cornerstone for the Yad Vashem building was laid on a hill in western Jerusalem, to be known as the Mount of Remembrance (Hebrew: Har HaZikaron ‎) the organization had already begun projects to collect the names of individuals killed in the Holocaust acquire Holocaust documentation and personal testimonies of survivors for the Archives and Library and develop research and publications. The memorial and museum opened to the public in 1957. [8] [9]

The location of Yad Vashem on the western side of Mount Herzl, an area devoid of weighty historical associations, was chosen to convey a symbolic message of "rebirth" after destruction, distinct from the Chamber of the Holocaust, founded in 1948 on Mount Zion. [10] [11] Thus, the latter museum, whose walls are lined with plaques memorializing over 2,000 Jewish communities destroyed during the Holocaust, [12] [13] portrays the Holocaust as a continuation of the "death and destruction" that plagued Jewish communities throughout Jewish history. [14]

In 1982, Yad Vashem sponsored the International Conference on Holocaust and Genocide, which included six presentations on the Armenian genocide. It later withdrew from the conference after threats by the Turkish government that Jewish lives would be put in danger if the conference went ahead. [15] [16] [17]

On 15 March 2005, a new Museum complex four times larger than the old one opened at Yad Vashem. It included the Holocaust History Museum with a new Hall of Names, a Museum of Holocaust Art, an Exhibitions Pavilion, a Learning Center and a Visual Center. [18] [19] The new Yad Vashem museum was designed by Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, replacing the previous 30-year-old exhibition. [20] It was the culmination of a $100 million decade-long expansion project. [21]

In November 2008, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau was appointed Chairman of Yad Vashem's Council, replacing Tommy Lapid. [22] The Vice Chairmen of the Council are Yitzhak Arad and Moshe Kantor. Elie Wiesel was Vice Chairman of the Council until his death on 2 July 2016. [23]

The Chairman of the Directorate is (since 1993) Avner Shalev, who replaced Yitzhak Arad, who had served in this position for 21 years. The Director General is Dorit Novak. The Head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research and Incumbent is John Najmann. The Chair for Holocaust Studies is Prof. Dan Michman. The Chief Historian is Prof. Dina Porat. The Academic Advisor is Prof. Yehuda Bauer. [23]

The Members of the Yad Vashem Directorate are Yossi Ahimeir, Daniel Atar, Michal Cohen, Matityahu Drobles, Avraham Duvdevani, Prof. Boleslaw (Bolek) Goldman, Vera H. Golovensky, Moshe Ha-Elion, Adv. Shlomit Kasirer, Yossi Katribas, Yehiel Leket, Baruch Shub, Dalit Stauber, Dr. Zehava Tanne, Adv. Shoshana Weinshall, and Dudi Zilbershlag. [23]

The aims of Yad Vashem are education, research and documentation, and commemoration. [24] Yad Vashem organizes professional development courses for educators both in Israel and throughout the world develops age-appropriate study programs, curricula, and educational materials for Israeli and foreign schools in order to teach students of all ages about the Holocaust holds exhibitions about the Holocaust collects the names of Holocaust victims [25] collects photos, documents, and personal artifacts and collects Pages of Testimony memorializing victims of the Holocaust. [26] Yad Vashem seeks to preserve the memory and names of the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, and the numerous Jewish communities destroyed during that time. It holds ceremonies of remembrance and commemoration supports Holocaust research projects develops and coordinates symposia, workshops, and international conferences and publishes research, memoirs, documents, albums, and diaries related to the Holocaust. [27] Yad Vashem also honors non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

The International Institute for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem, founded in 1993, offers guides and seminars for students, teachers, and educators, and develops pedagogic tools for use in the classroom. Yad Vashem trains 10,000 domestic and foreign teachers every year. [28] The organization operates a web site in several languages, including German, Hebrew, Persian, and Arabic. [ citation needed ] In 2013 Yad Vashem launched an online campaign in Arabic, promoting Yad Vashem's website. The campaign reached over 2.4 million Arabic speakers from around the globe, and the traffic to Yad Vashem's website was tripled. [29]

The institution's policy is that the Holocaust "cannot be compared to any other event". In 2009 Yad Vashem fired a docent for comparing the trauma Jews suffered in the Holocaust to the trauma Palestinians suffered during 1947–1949 Palestine war, including the Deir Yassin massacre. [30]

Yad Vashem Studies

Yad Vashem Studies is a peer-reviewed semi-annual scholarly journal on the Holocaust. Published since 1957, it appears in both English and Hebrew editions. [31]

Yad Vashem opened to the public in 1957. Its exhibits focused on Jewish resistance in the Warsaw ghetto, the uprisings in Sobibor and Treblinka death camps, and the struggle of survivors to reach Israel. [32]

In 1993, planning began for a larger, more technologically advanced museum to replace the old one. The new building, designed by Canadian-Israeli architect Moshe Safdie, consists of a long corridor connected to 10 exhibition halls, each dedicated to a different chapter of the Holocaust. The museum combines the personal stories of 90 Holocaust victims and survivors, and presents approximately 2,500 personal items including artwork and letters donated by survivors and others. The old historical displays revolving around anti-Semitism and the rise of Nazism have been replaced by exhibits that focus on the personal stories of Jews killed in the Holocaust. According to Avner Shalev, the museum's curator and chairman, a visit to the new museum revolves around "looking into the eyes of the individuals. There weren't six million victims, there were six million individual murders." [32]

The new museum was dedicated on 15 March 2005 in the presence of leaders from 40 states and then Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan. President of Israel Moshe Katzav said that Yad Vashem serves as "an important signpost to all of humankind, a signpost that warns how short the distance is between hatred and murder, between racism and genocide". [33]

In April 2019, Yad Vashem will break ground on a new subterranean center to house and conserve millions of artifacts from the Holocaust. [34]

The first architect involved in the design of Yad Vashem was Munio Weinraub, who worked on the project from 1943 till the 1960s, together with his architectural partner Al Mansfield. [35] He was approached for this purpose by Mordechai Shenhavi, the initiator and first director of the institution. [35] Weinraub's plans were not realised as a whole, but some of his ideas are visible in Yad Vashem today. [35]

The new Holocaust History Museum, designed by Moshe Safdie, is shaped like a triangular concrete prism that cuts through the landscape, illuminated by a 200 meters (656 ft)-long skylight. Visitors follow a preset route that takes them through underground galleries that branch off from the main hall. [21] Safdie is also the architect behind the Children's Memorial and the Deportees (cattle-car) Memorial.

The gates are the work of the sculptor David Palombo (1920–1966).

The Hall of Names is a memorial to the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. The main hall is composed of two cones: one ten meters high, with a reciprocal well-like cone excavated into the underground rock, its base filled with water. On the upper cone is a display featuring 600 photographs of Holocaust victims and fragments of Pages of Testimony. These are reflected in the water at the bottom of the lower cone, commemorating those victims whose names remain unknown. Surrounding the platform is the circular repository, housing the approximately 2.2 million Pages of Testimony collected to date, with empty spaces for those yet to be submitted.

Since the 1950s, Yad Vashem has collected approximately 110,000 audio, video, and written testimonies by Holocaust survivors. As the survivors age, the program has expanded to visiting survivors in their homes, to tape interviews. Adjoining the hall is a study area with a computerized data bank where visitors can do online searches for the names of Holocaust victims.

The Archive is the oldest department of Yad Vashem. Before presenting an exhibition, Yad Vashem collects items. The best known of these are the historical photographs, as well as the Pages of Testimonies collected from survivors. The latter is a database of personal information about those who survived and those who perished in the Holocaust. Yad Vashem has also acquired access to the database of the International Tracing Service of Bad Arolsen of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and these two databases complement each other for research purposes.

One of Yad Vashem's tasks is to honor non-Jews who risked their lives, liberty, or positions to save Jews during the Holocaust. To this end, a special independent commission, headed by a retired Supreme Court justice, was established. The commission members, including historians, public figures, lawyers, and Holocaust survivors, examine and evaluate each case according to a well-defined set of criteria and regulations. The Righteous receive a certificate of honor and a medal, and their names are commemorated in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations, [37] on the Mount of Remembrance, Yad Vashem. This is an ongoing project that will continue for as long as there are valid requests, substantiated by testimonies or documentation. Five hundred and fifty-five individuals were recognized during 2011, and as of 2019 [update] , more than 26,973 individuals have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. [38]

Yad Vashem's declared policy is not to provide meaningful recognition, even in a possible new category, to Jews who rescued Jews, regardless of the number of people their activism saved. The stated reason is that Jews had an obligation to save fellow Jews and do not deserve recognition. [39] [40]

Yad Vashem houses the world's largest collection of artwork produced by Jews and other victims of Nazi occupation in 1933–1945. The Yad Vashem Art Department supervises a 10,000-piece collection, adding 300 pieces a year, most of them donated by survivors' families or discovered in attics. [41] Included in the collection are works by Alexander Bogen, Alice Lok Cahana, Samuel Bak, and Felix Nussbaum.

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Dreifuss works for an institution that in recent years has functioned as a hard-working laundromat, striving to bleach out the sins of every anti-Semitic, fascist, racist or simply murderously thuggish leader or politician like Hungary’s Viktor Orban, the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte and Italy’s Matteo Salvini.

My heart breaks when I see my colleagues, honest and faithful researchers of the Holocaust, giving tours of this historic museum, apparently under compulsion, to the evildoers the Israeli government sends to Yad Vashem to receive absolution in the name of Holocaust victims in exchange for adding a pro-Israel vote at international institutions. For some reason, Dreifuss has no criticism about this.

But for the Polish government (every Polish government, both the current one headed by the nationalist Law and Justice party and the previous one headed by a liberal centrist coalition), which is spending tens of millions of zlotys every year to preserve historical Jewish sites, Jewish graveyards and countless memorials, she has scathing criticism.

Fear and demoralization

A week and a half ago, Matti Friedman published an opinion piece in The New York Times about what’s happening at Yad Vashem, and it made for difficult reading. When you read his conclusions, your hair stands on end. He doesn’t quote a single Yad Vashem employee by name, because no one wanted to be identified. After all, they have to earn a living.

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Friedman described a mood of frustration, fear and demoralization among the employees because the current extremist, nationalist government has turned Yad Vashem into a political tool reminiscent of history museums in totalitarian countries.

But the most astonishing thing Friedman reported is that the institution’s chairman, Avner Shalev – who turned the museum into an international remembrance empire, and who for years has viciously fought every attempt to present a different conceptual or research approach than that of Yad Vashem – is reluctant to retire, despite having reached the age of 80.

The reason for his reluctance is that many people at the institute fear that when he leaves, his place will be taken by someone nominated by the relevant minister, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who will turn Yad Vashem into a remembrance institute in the spirit of Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi party. It would be interesting to know what Dreifuss thinks about that.

Yad Vashem is now paying the price of the many years in which it nurtured a one-dimensional, simplistic message that there’s only one way to explain the Holocaust. Today, the institution is apparently willing to place its reputation for Holocaust research, which it has built over many years, at the service of a government that has recruited it to accuse anyone who criticizes Israel of anti-Semitism. So it’s no wonder that its researchers have become partisan explainers of the Holocaust.

It’s one thing when, at dubious conferences with political leaders whose governments include former neo-Nazis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tries to pass resolutions calling criticism of Israel the new anti-Semitism. It’s another when a research and remembrance institute doesn’t stand courageously against all such attempts.

Thus Yad Vashem would do better not to look for evidence that other governments are attempting to distort history and dictate nationalist content – not to mention engaging in Holocaust denial, as Dreifuss charges.

The Polish angle

Does any of the above justify the current Polish government’s position on the Holocaust? Obviously not. The Polish government has a problematic agenda in explaining the past, which we aren’t obligated to accept and in fact should even criticize.

But Poland’s government hasn’t interfered with the work of the museum’s employees, who have now started working, and certainly not with the development of the museum’s narrative. Had Dreifuss and her colleagues gotten involved in this effort, as they were invited to do, they would have been welcomed. Had Yad Vashem offered its help and support instead of giving the project the cold shoulder, nobody would have been happier than we at the museum.

And now we come to the historical issue. To take part in the effort to establish the Warsaw Ghetto Museum, one has to agree that the Holocaust can be presented and explained from perspectives other than an ethnocentric Jewish, Zionist and nationalist one.

One has to accept that the Holocaust can be studied in a way that sees Jewish history during this period as an integral part of Poland’s history under the Nazi occupation. One has to agree that the horrific Jewish tragedy that occurred during World War II can and should be understood in part by simultaneously examining – while noting both the differences and the common elements – what befell Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war and others who were murdered alongside Jews in the vast genocidal expanse that occupied Poland became.

To set up a museum with a humanist, universal and inclusive message about the Holocaust, one has to accept an approach that sees the Warsaw Ghetto – a horrific terror zone that caused the deaths and physical and spiritual collapse of hundreds of thousands of Jews – as one element of a much bigger terror zone in which hundreds of thousands of other people suffered and fought for their existence: the Poles who lived on the other side of the wall.

The obvious differences between the fates of these two peoples don’t absolve the research historian, or a museum depicting the history of this period, from presenting this complex message and demanding that visitors to the museum grapple with its lessons.

Therefore, the new Warsaw Ghetto Museum won’t be Yad Vashem. It will be a Holocaust museum in the heart of the Polish capital that remembers the fate of the 450,000 Jews, Warsaw residents and refugees brought to the ghetto.

After all, the vast majority of them were Jewish citizens of Poland. That’s how they lived, that’s how they suffered, and that’s how they should be remembered after being murdered by the Nazis.

Prof. Daniel Blatman is a historian at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the chief historian for the Warsaw Ghetto Museum.

Through the Lens of History Mini Exhibits from the Yad Vashem Collections

On the morning of 17 June 1944, a man in civilian garb knocked on the door… He had a warrant for my arrest… They interrogated me. …. They asked about the children, especially about Hannah. The investigator asked me where Hannah was, and smiling, I answered that she was in an agricultural settlement near Haifa. He shook his head and said: "She is here, in the next room". The door opened. I was dumbstruck. Aniko [Hannah] was standing in the doorway, held by four men. Her disheveled hair did not conceal the blue contusions above her eyes. She escaped their grip and jumped on me, sobbing: "Mother, forgive me".

Thus recalled Katherine Szenes (Senesh), Hannah's mother, in the testimony she gave to Yad Vashem in 1960. Until the meeting with her daughter in the jail in Budapest, Katherine was sure that her children had reached a safe haven in Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine).

Hannah-Anna (Aniko) Szenes was born in 1921 in Budapest, to an assimilated family steeped in Hungarian culture. Her father Bela was a journalist, author and playwright, who passed away when Hannah was six years old. His plays continued to be performed after his death, and one of them was made into a movie, the proceeds from which enabled his widow Katherine to provide for her children comfortably.

Hannah's talents were obvious from a young age. She maintained a diary and wrote poetry, initially in Hungarian and later, on becoming a passionate Zionist, in Hebrew too. Her brother Giora was one year older than her.

In 1939, Hannah immigrated to Eretz Israel. She attended the agricultural school in Nahalal for two years, and joined Kibbutz Sedot Yam in 1941. In 1943, she enlisted voluntarily in the British Army. She underwent parachute training, becoming one of 37 volunteer paratroopers from the Yishuv in the British Army, and one of 3 women who requested to parachute into occupied Europe in order to help their Jewish brethren.

In March 1944, approximately one week before the German occupation of Hungary, Hannah was parachuted into Yugoslavia, together with another 3 Yishuv paratroopers, Abba Berdichev, Reuven Dafni and Yona Rosen. Reuven Dafni recalled their first encounter with Tito's partisans after the jump:

Having a woman with us, a female paratrooper, made a huge impression on the partisans… It was pretty rare, and the parachute also wasn't what it is today, so a female paratrooper – the news spread like wildfire… there were female partisan fighters, but no paratroopers. … They knew we were from Eretz Israel, and that we were Jewish, and what the Jewish people had suffered, and they treated us very well and with respect.

Yad Vashem Archives O.3/6988

Hannah lived with Tito's partisans for about 3 months, trying relentlessly to reach Hungary with their assistance. It was her firm belief that the paratroopers needed to act without considering their own safety, since even if they didn't manage to save Jews, their personal sacrifice would be a symbol that would give strength and faith to the Jews of Europe. Dafni recalled:

I was not happy with Hannah's papers [her forged identity]. Not at all. I saw that the work the partisans did replacing the photographs, … was not bad considering the forest conditions, but it was clear to me that anyone even a little experienced in these matters would be able to see immediately that the photo had been tampered with. I wanted to convince Hannah not to go with those papers, I was scared… We had a very heated argument. She was altogether extremely obstinate. … Until she suddenly said: "Even if they catch me – the Jews will be notified. They will know that at least one person tried to reach them."

Yad Vashem Archives O.3/6988

In early June, 1944, Hannah crossed the border into Hungary, and was caught several hours later in the possession of a transmitter. Sandor Fleischman, one of the men who crossed the border with her and was also caught, later recalled:

We had to swim across. Anna carried the radio and we helped her. … It was a dark night. … and Aniko exerted tremendous effort because the previous time I had said that I can't swim across anymore, as I would drown. She crossed over five or six times. And we had to enter the water again, and bring items across, and transport rifles and other things that we didn't want to get wet. … We hid Anna's British Army uniform in the ground, and she wore civilian clothing.

Yad Vashem Archives O.3/7393

After she was caught, Hannah was transferred to a prison in Szombathely, and then to the jail in Budapest. She was subjected to horrific torture and threats on her mother's life, but she did not reveal the radio codes.

14-year-old Yehuda Shaul Frankel was caught with his parents by the Gestapo in Budapest, suspected of helping smuggle Jews from Hungary to Romania. They were imprisoned in the same jail as Hannah Szenes. Yehuda relates:

After Hannah Szenes was arrested, somehow we were informed. I would see her many times on the floor above us. Her cell was opposite ours. … she would stick things onto the window. … She had tremendous Jewish "chutzpa" as it was called. She would stick all kinds of messages for others in the prison, about all sorts of things… That she had arrived, and what was happening to her. She would cut up paper and stick it. … Peretz Goldstein [one of the Yishuv paratroopers] was in the same prison for a short time, so she would send him messages by sticking them onto the window.

Yad Vashem Archives O.3/7833

When Hannah was caught, her mother Katherine was in Budapest. She relates:

I was overjoyed that my children were safe, but fate summoned the suffering of war and my maternal concern. …. On the morning of 17 June 1944, a man in civilian garb knocked on the door. He was a police detective with a warrant for my arrest. He did not tell me what I was charged with, but I wasn't unduly worried I knew that they arrested Jews all the time, and I wasn't expecting anything untoward. They interrogated me, initially asking for all my personal details. Afterwards, they asked about the children, especially about Hannah. The investigator asked me where Hannah was, and smiling, I answered that she was in an agricultural settlement near Haifa. He shook his head and said: "She is here, in the next room". The door opened. I was dumbstruck. Aniko [Hannah] was standing in the doorway, held by four men. Her disheveled hair did not conceal the blue contusions above her eyes. She escaped their grip and jumped on me, sobbing: "Mother, forgive me".

Yad Vashem Archives O.3/1945

After the interrogation, Katherine was sent home and warned not to reveal the fact of her arrest to anyone. After a short time, she was imprisoned again for close to three months, after which she was sent to the Kistarcsa concentration camp on 11 September. Two weeks later, Katherine was released from the concentration camp and returned to Budapest. Hannah was in jail during that entire period.

Hannah Szenes's imprisonment lasted five months. 11-year-old Zipporah Hevroni-Razi met Hannah in jail. She had been smuggled from Poland into Hungary by members of the "Nasza Grupa" Hanoar Hazioni underground, was caught and imprisoned in the Budapest jail. She recalls:

In prison, my sister suddenly whistled a Hebrew song that she had learned at youth movement. We went out into the courtyard for half an hour each day, during which time we had to walk around in pairs. Only one girl, Hannah Szenes, stood in the middle of the courtyard. They also allowed me not to walk with everyone else, because I was a young girl, which the prison wardens took into account. She approached me and asked who I was, because she had heard a Hebrew song. My sister, of course, said: Don't reveal who you are although we are prisoners together, we mustn't tell because we are still posing as Poles… I told her. I knew a little Hungarian. … I met her a few times in the courtyard when she already didn't have any teeth. We knew she was a prisoner. We didn't know she was connected to Eretz Israel. We knew she had connections with the British. … On one occasion, friends from outside managed to send us a package. The package contained jam, stuffed peppers, butter. … We asked the warden to give some of the contents to Hannah Szenes. … She would make dolls out of paper and all kinds of rags. She made bride and groom dolls and sent them to my cell. … We only discovered who Hannah Szenes really was when we reached Israel. My sister saw a book with a photo of her in uniform.

Yad Vashem Archives O.3/7068

Hannah stood trial for treason in a military court. At the trial, she expressed her Jewish faith stridently and courageously. Katherine relates:

Aniko's trial was on 28 October. The trial was conducted in secret, and I couldn't be there. They notified us that the sentence would be handed down in another week. … Every day I tried to speak to the military judge, so that he would let me talk to my daughter. … I came to him. His offices, always teeming with people, were empty. … He told me that the sentence had been carried out the previous day.

Yad Vashem Archives O.3/1945

On 7 November 1944, Hannah Szenes was executed by firing squad, having been found guilty of treason against Hungary. She was 23 years old. Yoel Palgi, one of the Yishuv paratroopers who had parachuted into Yugoslavia, crossed the border into Hungary and was caught and imprisoned, relates:

Suddenly, a shot rang out, one or two shots. They were shooting in the courtyard. What had taken place? Perhaps someone was executed again? But no, that couldn't be… Surely it was just a stray bullet from the guard's rifle. …Close to noon. … "What happened?", asked Fleischman, and was answered: "The shooting we heard was 'the shooting'. … They executed Hannah an hour ago." We stood as though turned to stone. Hannah? Impossible! Error, error error! Every drop of blood within me roared, every nerve ending. It couldn't be! Why her, of all people and not us?! … I felt I had to say something, but the words lodged in my throat. I saw that all eyes were on me. I stammered: "She was the most wonderful person I met in my life!" … We got up, and stood in silent tribute for a long time. Afterwards, we sat down without a word. … They killed Hannah! They killed Hannah!

Yoel Palgi, And Behold, A Great Wind Came, 1978, pp 194-196

After her daughter's execution, Katherine was forced on a death march by the Arrow Cross. She survived and returned to Budapest. In October 1945, she immigrated to Eretz Israel and was reunited with her son Giora, who had immigrated in January 1944.

Hannah Szenes has been memorialized by authors and playwrights, and became a symbol of courage, proud determination and integrity. Her own literary legacy was also published and reprinted many times and in many forms. In 1950, her remains were brought to Israel and buried on Mount Herzl, and the settlement Yad Hannah was established in her name. In 1986, Katherine Szenes submitted a Page of Testimony to Yad Vashem in memory of her daughter Hannah.

In 1993, the Hungarian military supreme court made a ruling clearing Hannah Szenes's name, and repealing her conviction for treason and death sentence.

Hannah's last Hebrew poem, "Blessed is the Match", expresses her spirit of self-sacrifice for the sake of the Jewish people, and her willingness to fight to the last breath. She gave Reuven Dafni the poem when they parted, on the eve of her border crossing into Hungary. She made this request of him: "If I don't come back, give this to my friends in Sedot Yam."

Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame.
Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret fastness of the heart.
Blessed is the heart with strength to stop its beating for honor’s sake.
Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame.
2 May 1944
Translated from the Hebrew by Marie Syrkin
Hannah Szenes, Her Life and Diary, the Complete First Edition, 2004



Poland had a very large Jewish population, and, according to Norman Davies, more Jews were both killed and rescued in Poland than in any other nation: the rescue figure usually being put at between 100,000–150,000. [2] The memorial at Bełżec extermination camp commemorates 600,000 murdered Jews and 1,500 Poles who tried to save Jews. [3] Thousands in Poland have been honored as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, constituting the largest national contingent. [4] Martin Gilbert wrote that "Poles who risked their own lives to save the Jews were indeed the exception. But they could be found throughout Poland, in every town and village." [5]

Until the end of Communist domination, much of German-occupied Poland's Holocaust history was hidden behind the veil of the Iron Curtain. During the World War II Nazi occupation, Poland was the only country where any help provided to a person of Jewish faith or origin was punishable by death. Yet 6,532 men and women (more than from any other country in the world) have been recognized as rescuers by Yad Vashem in Israel. [6]

Poland during the Holocaust of World War II was under total enemy control: initially half of Poland was occupied by the Germans, as the General Government and Reichskomissariat the other half by the Soviets, along with the territories of today's Belarus and Ukraine. The list of Polish citizens officially recognized as Righteous include 700 names of those who lost their lives while trying to help their Jewish neighbors. [7] There were also groups, such as the Polish Żegota organization, that took drastic and dangerous steps to rescue victims. Witold Pilecki, a member of Armia Krajowa, the Polish Home Army, organized a resistance movement in Auschwitz from 1940, and Jan Karski tried to spread word of the Holocaust.

When AK Home Army Intelligence discovered the true fate of transports leaving the Jewish Ghetto, the council to Aid Jews – Rada Pomocy Żydom (codename Żegota) – was established in late 1942 in co-operation with church groups. The organization saved thousands. Emphasis was placed on protecting children, as it was nearly impossible to intervene directly against the heavily guarded transports. False papers were prepared, and children were distributed among safe houses and church networks. [2] Two women founded the movement: the Catholic writer and activist Zofia Kossak-Szczucka and the socialist Wanda Filipowicz. Some of its members had been involved in Polish nationalist movements, which were themselves anti-Jewish, but which became appalled by the barbarity of the Nazi mass murders. In an emotional protest prior to the foundation of the council, Kossak wrote that Hitler's race murders were a crime about which it was not possible to remain silent. While Polish Catholics might still feel Jews were "enemies of Poland", Kossak wrote that protest was required: "God requires this protest from us. It is required of a Catholic conscience. The blood of the innocent calls for vengeance to the heavens." [8]

In the 1948–49 Zegota Case, the Stalin-backed regime established in Poland after the war secretly tried and imprisoned the leading survivors of Zegota as part of a campaign to eliminate and besmirch resistance heroes who might threaten the new regime. [9]

Jews were aided also by diplomats outside Poland. The Ładoś Group was a group of Polish diplomats and Jewish activists who created in Switzerland a system of illegal production of Latin American passports aimed at saving European Jews from the Holocaust. About 10,000 Jews received such passports, of whom over 3,000 have been saved. [10] The group efforts are documented in the Eiss Archive. [11] [12] Jews were also helped by Henryk Sławik, in Hungary, who helped save over 30,000 Polish refugees, including 5,000 Polish Jews by giving them false Polish passports with a Catholic designation, [13] and by Tadeusz Romer in Japan.


The Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture writes "One cannot forget the repeated initiatives of the head of the Greek Christian Orthodox Metropolitan See of Thessaloniki, Gennadios, against the deportations, and most of all, the official letter of protest signed in Athens on March 23, 1943, by Archbishop Damaskinos of the Greek Orthodox Church, along with 27 prominent leaders of cultural, academic and professional organizations. The document, written in a very sharp language, refers to unbreakable bonds between Christian Orthodox and Jews, identifying them jointly as Greeks, without differentiation. It is noteworthy that such a document is unique in the whole of occupied Europe, in character, content and purpose". [14]

The 275 Jews of the island of Zakynthos, however, survived the Holocaust. When the island's mayor, Loukas Karrer (Λουκάς Καρρέρ), was presented with the German order to hand over a list of Jews, Bishop Chrysostomos returned to the amazed Germans with a list of two names his and the mayor's. Moreover, the Bishop wrote a letter to Hitler himself stating that the Jews of the island were under his supervision. [15] In the meantime the island's population hid every member of the Jewish community. When the island was almost levelled by the great earthquake of 1953, the first relief came from the state of Israel, with a message that read "The Jews of Zakynthos have never forgotten their Mayor or their beloved Bishop and what they did for us." [16]

The Jewish community of Volos, one of the most ancient in Greece, had fewer losses than any other Jewish community in Greece thanks to the timely and dynamic intervention and mobilization of the massive communist-leftist partisan movement of EAM-ELAS (National Liberation Front (Greece) – Greek People's Liberation Army) and the successful cooperation of the head of the Greek Christian Orthodox Metropolitan See of Demetrias Joachim and the chief rabbi of Volos, Moses Pesach for the evacuation of Volos from the Jewish people, after the events in Thessaloniki (displacement of the city's Jews to concentration camps).

Princess Alice of Battenberg and Greece, who was the wife of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and the mother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and mother-in-law of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, stayed in occupied Athens during the Second World War, sheltering Jewish refugees, for which she is recognized as "Righteous Among the Nations" at Yad Vashem. Although the Germans and Bulgarians [17] deported a great number of Greek Jews, others were successfully hidden by their Greek neighbors.

82-year-old Simon Danieli traveled from Israel to his birthplace in Veria to thank the descendants of the people who helped him and his family escape Nazi persecution during World War II. Danieli was 13 in 1942 when his family—father Joseph, a grain merchant, mother Buena, and nine siblings—fled Veria to escape the increasingly frequent atrocities committed by Nazi forces against the city's Jews. They ended up in a small nearby village in Sykies, where the family was taken in by Giorgos and Panayiota Lanara, who offered them shelter, food and a hiding place in the woods, helped also by a priest, Nestoras Karamitsopoulos. The Nazis, however, soon stormed Sykies, where around 50 more Jews from Veria had also taken refuge. They questioned the priest about the whereabouts of the Jews, but when Karamitsopoulos refused to answer, they began raiding people's homes. They found Jews hidden in eight homes, and promptly set fire the houses. They also turned their wrath on the priest, torturing him and pulling out his beard, according to Danieli. [18]


Père Marie-Benoît was a French Capuchin priest who helped smuggle approximately 4,000 Jews into safety from Nazi-occupied Southern France and subsequently was recognized by Yad Vashem as a Righteous among the Nations in 1966. The French town of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon sheltered several thousand Jews. The Brazilian diplomat Luis Martins de Souza Dantas illegally issued Brazilian diplomatic visas to hundreds of Jews in France during the Vichy Government, saving them from almost certain death. Si Kaddour Benghabrit, the religious head of the Islamic Center of France, helped more than a thousand Jews by providing forged identity papers to the Jews of Paris during the German occupation of France. He also managed to hide many Jewish families in the rooms of Paris Mosque as well as in the residencies and women's prayer areas. [19] [20] [21] [22]


In April 1943, members of the Belgian resistance held up the twentieth convoy train to Auschwitz, and freed 231 people. Several local governments did all they could to slow down or block the registration processes for Jews they were obliged to perform by the Nazis. Many people saved children by hiding them away in private houses and boarding schools. Of the approximately 50,000 Jews in Belgium in 1940, about 25,000 were deported—though only about 1,250 survived. Marie and Emile Taquet sheltered Jewish boys in a residential school or home. The Reverend Bruno Reynders was a Catholic Belgian Monk who defied the Nazis, as he implemented the directive of Pope Pius XII to save the Jews, worked with local orphanages, Catholic Nuns and the Belgian Underground to forge false identities for Jewish children whose parents willingly gave them up in an attempt to spare their lives faced with deportation to the death camps. Pere Bruno risked his life for his values and to save the lives of an estimated 400 Jewish children and is honored as a Righteous Gentile at Yad Vashem.

L'abbé Joseph André is another Catholic priest who secured safe hiding places with Belgian families, orphanages and other institutions for Jewish children and adults.


The Jewish community in Denmark remained relatively unaffected by Germany's occupation of Denmark on 9 April 1940. The Germans allowed the Danish government to remain in office and this cabinet rejected the notion that any "Jewish question" should exist in Denmark. No legislation was passed against Jews and the yellow badge was not introduced in Denmark. In August 1943, this situation was about to collapse as the Danish government refused to introduce the death penalty as demanded by the Germans following a series of strikes and popular protests. The German empire forced the Danish government to shut down. During these events, German diplomat Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz tipped off Danish politician Hans Hedtoft that the Danish Jews would be deported to Germany following the collapse of the Danish government. Hedtoft alerted the Danish resistance and the Jewish leader C.B. Henriques informed the acting Chief Rabbi Marcus Melchior in the absence of the Chief Rabbi Max Friediger who had already been arrested as a hostage on 29 August 1943, urging the community to go into hiding in a service on 29 September 1943. During the following weeks, more than 7,200 of Denmark's 8,000 strong Jewish community were ferried to neutral Sweden hidden in fishing boats. A small number of Jews, some 450 in all, were captured by the Germans and shipped to Theresienstadt. Danish officials were able to ensure that these prisoners weren't shipped to extermination camps, and Danish Red Cross inspections and food packages ensured focus on the Danish Jews. Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte ensured their release and transport to Denmark in the final days of the war. Denmark rescued around 7,200 Jews en masse in October 1943.


Based on its 1940 population of 9 million the 5,516 Jews rescued in the Netherlands represents the largest per capita number: 1 in 1,700 Dutch was awarded the Righteous Among the Nations medal. [23] Notable rescuers include:

    , Dutch artist and resistance fighter who helped forge documents allowing Jewish families to flee the country , who helped save about 10,000 Jewish children from Germany and Austria just before the outbreak of the war (Kindertransport) and on the last transport ship leaving the Netherlands to the UK in May 1940. , who as a Dutch consular representative in Kaunas, Lithuania, issued exit visas used by between 6,000 and to 10,000 Jewish refugees.
  • Those who hid and helped Anne Frank and her family, like Miep Gies. , a teacher and antifascist resistance member, who saved Jewish children during the war. [24] helped save approximately 150 Dutch Jews, most of them children, throughout the German occupation of the Netherlands. [25][26] , rescued over 100 Jews by hiding them in her house and providing them with forged paperwork to escape the country. [27] (18 December 1903 – 1 August 1975), instrumental in preventing Jews from being deported and killed during the Holocaust.
  • The participants of the so-called "Amsterdam dock strike" (better known as the February strike, about 300,000 to 500,000 people who on 25 and 26 February 1941 took part in the first strike against persecution of the Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe).
  • The village of Nieuwlande (117 inhabitants) that set up a quota for residents to rescue Jews.


After the Invasion of Yugoslavia, the country was occupied by Germany and some regions were occupied by Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria and Albania. A puppet state of Independent State of Croatia was installed. After a bombing campaign on major Serbian cities, a German puppet regime led by Milan Nedić was installed who together with German Army and occupying forces persecuted the Jews in Serbia proper, in Hungarian-occupied Vojvodina region, and in the territory held by the Croatian Ustashas. Serbian Jews who were not transported to concentration camps in Germany were either murdered in Nazi concentration camps within Serbia (such as Banjica and Crveni Krst) or transported to Ustasha-controlled concentration camp Jasenovac and murdered there. Jews living in Hungarian-occupied regions faced mass executions, the most notorious being the Novi Sad raid in 1942.

Serbian civilians were involved in saving thousands of Yugoslavian Jews during this period. Miriam Steiner-Aviezer, a researcher into Yugoslavian Jewry and a member of Yad Vashem's Righteous Gentiles committee states: "The Serbs saved many Jews. Contrary to their present image in the world, the Serbs are a friendly, loyal people who will not abandon their neighbors." [28] As of 2017 Yad Vashem recognizes 135 Serbians as Righteous Among Nations, the highest of any Balkan country. [29] [30]


Bulgaria joined the Axis powers in March 1941 and took part in the invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece. [32] The Nazi-allied government of Bulgaria, led by Bogdan Filov, fully and actively assisted in the Holocaust in occupied areas. On Passover 1943, Bulgaria rounded up the great majority of Jews in Greece and Yugoslavia, transported them through Bulgaria, and handed them off to German transport to Treblinka, where almost all were killed. The Nazi-allied government of Bulgaria deported a higher percentage of Jews (from the areas of Greece and the Republic of Macedonia) than did the German occupiers in the region. [33] [34] In Bulgarian-occupied Greece, the Bulgarian authorities arrested the majority of the Jewish population on Passover 1943. [35] [36] [37] [38] [39] The territories of Greece, Macedonia and other nations occupied by Bulgaria during World War II were not considered Bulgarian—they were only administered by Bulgaria, but Bulgaria had no say as to the affairs of these lands.

The active participation of Bulgaria in the Holocaust however did not extend to its pre-war territory and after various protests by Archbishop Stefan of Sofia and the interference of Dimitar Peshev, the planned deportation of the Bulgarian Jews (about 50,000) was stopped. Deportation to the concentration camps was denied. Bulgaria was officially thanked by the government of Israel despite being an ally of Nazi Germany. [40]

Dimitar Peshev was the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Bulgaria and Minister of Justice during World War II. He rebelled against the pro-Nazi cabinet and prevented the deportation of Bulgaria's 48 000 Jews. He was aided by the strong opposition of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Although Peshev had been involved in various anti-Semitic legislation that was passed in Bulgaria during the early years of the War, the government decision to deport Bulgaria's 48 000 Jews on 8 March 1943 was too much for Peshev. After being informed of the deportation, Peshev tried several times to see Prime Minister Bogdan Filov but the prime minister refused. Next, he went to see Interior Minister Petar Gabrovski insisting that he cancel the deportations. After much persuasion, Gabrovski finally called the governor of Kyustendil and instructed him to stop preparations for the Jewish deportations. By 5:30 p.m. on 9 March, the order was cancelled. After the war, Peshev was charged with anti-Semitism and anti-Communism by the Soviet courts, and sentenced to death. However, after outcry from the Jewish community, his sentence was commuted to 15 years imprisonment, though released after just one year. His deeds went unrecognized after the war, as he lived in poverty in Bulgaria. It was not until 1973 that he was awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations. He died the same year.


Historians have estimated that up to one million refugees fled from the Nazis through Portugal during World War II, an impressive number considering the size of the country's population at that time (circa 6 million). [41] Portugal remained neutral within the overall objectives of the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance and that astute policy under precarious conditions, made it possible for Portugal to contribute to the rescue of a large number of refugees. [42] Portuguese Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar allowed all international Jewish organizations—HIAS, HICEM, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, World Jewish Congress, and Portuguese Jewish relief committees—to establish themselves in Lisbon. [43] In 1944, in Hungary, risking their lives, the diplomats Carlos Sampaio Garrido and Carlos de Liz-Texeira Branquinho, coordinating with Salazar, also helped many Jews escape Nazis and their Hungarian allies. [44] In June 1940, when Germany invaded France, Portuguese consul in Bordeaux, Aristides de Sousa Mendes issued visas, indiscriminately, to a population in panic, [45] without asking previous authorizations from Lisbon, as he was supposed to. On 20 June, the British Embassy in Lisbon accused the Consul in Bordeaux of improperly charging money for issuing visas and Sousa Mendes was called to Lisbon. The number of visas issued by Sousa Mendes cannot be determined a 1999 study by the Yad Vashem historian Dr. Avraham Milgram published by the Shoah Resource Center, International School for Holocaust Studies, [46] asserts that there is a great difference between reality and the myth created by the generally cited numbers. Sousa Mendes never lost his title as he kept on being listed in the Portuguese Diplomatic Yearbook until 1954 and kept on receiving his full Consul salary, $1,593 Portuguese Escudos, [47] [48] until the day he died. [49] Other Portuguese who deserve further credit for saving Jews during the war are Professor Francisco Paula Leite Pinto and Moisés Bensabat Amzalak. A devoted Jew, and a Salazar supporter, Amzalak headed the Lisbon Jewish community for more than fifty years (from 1926 until 1978). Leite Pinto, General Manager of the Portuguese railways, together with Amzalak, organized several trains, coming from Berlin and other cities, loaded with refugees. [50] [51] [52]


In Franco's Spain, several diplomats contributed very actively to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. The two most prominent ones were Ángel Sanz Briz (the Angel of Budapest), who saved around five thousand Hungarian Jews by providing them Spanish passports, and Eduardo Propper de Callejón, who helped thousands of Jews to escape from France to Spain. Other diplomats with a relevant role were Bernardo Rolland de Miota (consul of Spain at Paris), José Rojas Moreno (Ambassador at Bucharest), Miguel Ángel de Muguiro (diplomat at the Embassy in Budapest), Sebastián Romero Radigales (Consul at Athens), Julio Palencia Tubau, (diplomat at the Embassy in Sofía), Juan Schwartz Díaz-Flores (Consul at Vienna) and José Ruiz Santaella (diplomat at the Embassy in Berlin).


According to the data available at Yad Vashem, by 1 January 2019, 904 rescuers of Jews in Lithuania were identified, whereas in the catalogue compiled by the Department for Commemoration of Rescuers of Jews of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum 2300 [53] Lithuanians who rescued Jews are indicated, among them 159 members of clergy. [54]

Republic of Lithuania following the occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany and Soviet Union in September 1939, accepted and accommodated in the country numbers of Polish and Jewish refugees [55] as well as soldiers of defeated Polish army. [56] Part of these refugees were later saved from Soviets (and eventually from Nazis) by Japanese consul-general Chiune Sugihara and director of Philips plants in Lithuania and part-time acting consul of Netherlands Jan Zwanterdijk after occupation of Lithuania by Soviet Union on June 15, 1940.

Chiune Sempo Sugihara, Japanese Consul-General in Kaunas, Lithuania, 1939–1940, issued thousands of visas to Jews fleeing Kaunas after occupation of Lithuania by Soviet Union in defiance of explicit orders from the Japanese foreign ministry. The last foreign diplomat to leave Kaunas, Sugihara continued stamping visas from the open window of his departing train. After the war, Sugihara was fired from the Japanese foreign service, ostensibly due to downsizing. In 1985, Sugihara's wife and son received the Righteous Among the Nations honor in Jerusalem, on behalf of the ailing Sugihara, who died in 1986.

As well as in other countries Rescuers from Lithuania came from different layers of society. The most iconical figures are librarian Ona Šimaitė, doctor Petras Baublys, writer Kazys Binkys and his wife journalist Sofija Binkienė, musician Vladas Varčikas, writer and translator Danutė Zubovienė (Čiurlionytė) and his husband Vladimiras Zubovas, doctor Elena Kutorgienė, aviator Vladas Drupas, doctor Pranas Mažylis, Catholic priest Juozapas Stakauskas, teacher Vladas Žemaitis, Catholic nun Maria Mikulska and others. In Šarnelė village (Plungė district) Straupiai family (Jonas and Bronislava Straupiai together with their neighbours Adolfina and Juozas Karpauskai) saved 26 people (9 families). [58]

Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania and foreign countries who rescue people on the territory of Lithuania and citizens of the Republic of Lithuania abroad are awarded with Life Saving Crosses. The President of Lithuania honors Jewish rescuers every year on the occasion of the National Memorial Day for the Genocide of Lithuanian Jews, which is marked on Sep. 23 to commemorate the liquidation of the Vilnius ghetto on that day in 1943.


Unlike many other Eastern European countries under Nazi occupation, Albania—which has a mixed Muslim and Christian population and a tradition of tolerance—became a safe haven for Jews. [59] At the end of 1938, Albania was the only remaining country in Europe that still issued visas to Jews through its embassy in Berlin. [60] Following the Nazi occupation of Albania, the country refused to hand over its small Jewish population to the Germans, [61] sometimes even providing Jewish families with forged documents. [59] During the war, about 2,000 Jews sought refuge in Albania, and many of them took shelter in rural parts of the country where they were protected by the local population. [59] At the end of the war, Albania's Jewish population was greater than it was prior to the war, making it the only country in Europe where the Jewish population increased during World War II. [62] [63] Out of two thousand Jews in total, [64] only five Albanian Jews perished at the hands of the Nazis. [61] [65] They were discovered by the Germans and subsequently deported to Pristina. [66]

Between February and March in 1939, King Zog I of Albania granted asylum to 300 Jewish refugees before being overthrown by the Italian fascists in April the same year. When the Italians requisitioned the Albanian puppet government to expel its Jewish refugees, the Albanian leaders refused, and in the following years, 400 more Jewish refugees found sanctuary in Albania. [67]

Refik Veseli was the first Albanian to be awarded the title Righteous Among the Nations, [68] having declared afterwards that betraying the Jews "would have disgraced his village and his family. At minimum his home would be destroyed and his family banished". [69] On 21 July 1992, Mihal Lekatari, an Albanian partisan from Kavajë, was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. Lekatari is noted for stealing blank identity papers from the municipality of Harizaj and distributing identity papers with Muslim names on them to Jewish refugees. [70] In 1997, Albanian Shyqyri Myrto was honored for rescuing Jews, with the Anti-Defamation League's Courage to Care Award presented to his son, Arian Myrto. [71] In 2006, a plaque honoring the compassion and courage of Albania during the Holocaust was dedicated in The Holocaust Memorial Park in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, New York, with the Albanian ambassador to the United Nations in attendance. [note 1]

During the war, some parts of Kosovo and Macedonia which were occupied by the Axis powers were annexed to Albania, and an estimated 600 Jews were captured in these territories, and consequently killed. [73]


The government of Finland generally refused to deport Finnish Jews to Germany. It has been said that Finnish government officials told German envoys that "Finland has no Jewish Problem". However, the Secret Police ValPo deported 8 Jews in 1942 who were refugees seeking asylum in Finland. Moreover, it seems highly likely that Finland deported Soviet POWs, among them a number of Jews. The majority of Finnish Jews however, were protected by the government's co-belligerence with Germany. Their men joined the Finnish army and fought on the front.

The most notable Finnish individual involved in aiding the Jews was Algoth Niska (1888–1954). Niska was a smuggler during the Finnish prohibition, but had run into financial troubles after its end in 1932, so when Albert Amtmann, an Austrian-Jewish acquaintance, expressed his concerns over his people's position in Europe, Niska quickly saw a business opportunity in smuggling Jews out of Germany. The modus operandi was quickly established. Niska would forge Finnish passports and Amtmann would acquire the customers, who with their new passports would able to cross the border out of Germany. All in all, Niska falsified passports for 48 Jews during 1938 and earned 2,5 million Finnish marks ($890,000 or £600,000 in today's money) selling them. Only three of the Jews are known to have survived the Holocaust while twenty were certainly caught. The fates of the other twenty-five are not known. Involved in the operation with Niska and Amtmann were Major Rafael Johannes Kajander, Axel Belewicz and Belewicz's girlfriend Kerttu Ollikainen whose job was to steal the forms on which the passports were forged. [74] [75]


Despite Benito Mussolini's close alliance with Hitler, Italy did not adopt Nazism's genocidal ideology towards the Jews. The Nazis were frustrated by the Italian forces' refusal to co-operate in the roundups of Jews, and no Jews were deported from Italy prior to the Nazi occupation of the country following the Italian capitulation in September 1943. [76] In Italian-occupied Croatia, the Nazi envoy Siegfried Kasche advised Berlin that Italian forces had "apparently been influenced" by Vatican opposition to German anti-Semitism. [77] As anti-Axis feeling grew in Italy, the use of Vatican Radio to broadcast papal disapproval of race murder and anti-Semitism angered the Nazis. [78] Mussolini was overthrown in July 1943, and the Nazis moved to occupy Italy, commencing a round-up of Jews. Although thousands were caught, the great majority of Italy's Jews were saved. As in other nations, Catholic networks were heavily engaged in rescue efforts. [note 2]

In Fiume (northern Italy, today Croatian Rijeka), Giovanni Palatucci, after the promulgation of racial laws against Jews in 1938 and at the beginning of war in 1940, as chief of the Foreigners' Office, forged documents and visas to Jews threatened by deportation. He managed to destroy all documented records of the some 5,000 Jewish refugees living in Fiume, issuing them false papers and providing them with funds. Palatucci then sent the refugees to a large internment camp in southern Italy protected by his uncle, Giuseppe Maria Palatucci, the Catholic Bishop of Campagna. Following the 1943 capitulation of Italy, Fiume was occupied by Nazis. Palatucci remained as head of the police administration without real powers. He continued to clandestinely help Jews and maintain contact with the Resistance, until his activities were discovered by the Gestapo. The Swiss Consul to Trieste, a close friend of his, offered him a safe pass to Switzerland, but Giovanni Palatucci sent his young Jewish fiancée instead. Palatucci was arrested on 13 September 1944. He was condemned to death, but the sentence was later commuted to deportation to Dachau, where he died.

On 19 July 1944, the Gestapo rounded up the nearly 2000 Jewish inhabitants of the island of Rhodes, which had been governed by Italy since 1912. Of the approximately 2,000 Rhodesli Jews who were deported to Auschwitz and elsewhere, only 104 survived.

Giorgio Perlasca, who posed as the consul-general of Spain under the Spanish ambassador in Budapest, was able to put under his protection thousands of Jews and non-Jews destined to concentration camps.

Martin Gilbert wrote that, in October 1943, with the SS occupying Rome and determined to deport the city's 5000 Jews, the Vatican clergy had opened the sanctuaries of the Vatican to all "non-Aryans" in need of rescue in an attempt to forestall the deportation. "Catholic clergy in the city acted with alacrity", wrote Gilbert. "At the Capuchin convent on the Via Siciliano, Father Benoit saved a large numbers of Jews by providing them with false identification papers [. ] by the morning of October 16, a total of 4,238 Jews had been given sanctuary in the many monasteries and convents of Rome. A further 477 Jews had been given shelter in the Vatican and its enclaves." Gilbert credited the rapid rescue efforts of the Church with saving over four-fifths of Roman Jews. [79]

Other Righteous Catholic rescuers in Italy included Elisabeth Hesselblad. [80] She and two British women, Mother Riccarda Beauchamp Hambrough and Sister Katherine Flanagan have been beatified for reviving the Swedish Bridgettine Order of nuns and hiding scores of Jewish families in their convent. [81] The churches, monasteries and convents of Assisi formed the Assisi Network and served as a safe haven for Jews. Gilbert credits the network established by Bishop Giuseppe Placido Nicolini and Abbott Rufino Niccaci of the Franciscan Monastery, with saving 300 people. [82] Other Italian clerics honored by Yad Vashem include the theology professor Fr Giuseppe Girotti of Dominican Seminary of Turin, who saved many Jews before being arrested and sent to Dachau where he died in 1945 Fr Arrigo Beccari who protected around 100 Jewish children in his seminary and among local farmers in the village of Nonantola in Central Italy and Don Gaetano Tantalo, a parish priest who sheltered a large Jewish family. [83] [84] [85] Of Italy's 44,500 Jews, some 7,680 were murdered in the Nazi Holocaust. [86]

Vatican City State

In the 1930s, Pope Pius XI urged Mussolini to ask Hitler to restrain the anti-Semitic actions taking place in Germany. [87] In 1937, the Pope issued the Mit brennender Sorge (German: "With burning concern") encyclical, in which he asserted the inviolability of human rights. [88] [note 3]

Pope Pius XII succeeded Pius XI on the eve of war in 1939. He used diplomacy to aid the victims of the Holocaust, and directed the Church to provide discreet aid. [95] His encyclicals such as Summi Pontificatus and Mystici corporis preached against racism—with specific reference to Jews: "there is neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision". [96] His 1942 Christmas radio address denounced the murder of "hundreds of thousands" of "faultless" people because of their "nationality or race". The Nazis were furious and The Reich Main Security Office, responsible for the deportation of Jews, called him the "mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals". [97] Pius XII intervened to attempt to block Nazi deportations of Jews in various countries. [98]

Following the capitulation of Italy, Nazi deportations of Jews to death camps began. Pius XII protested at diplomatic levels, while several thousand Jews found refuge in Catholic networks. On 27 June 1943, Vatican Radio broadcast a papal injunction: "He who makes a distinction between Jews and other men is being unfaithful to God and is in conflict with God's commands". [99]

When the Nazis came to Rome in search of Jews, the Pope had already days earlier ordered the sanctuaries of the Vatican City be opened to all "non-Aryans" in need of refuge and according to Martin Gilbert, by the morning of 16 October, "a total of 477 Jews had been given shelter in the Vatican and its enclaves, while another 4,238 had been given sanctuary in the many monasteries and convents of in Rome. Only 1,015 of Rome's 6,730 Jews were seized that morning". [100] Upon receiving news of the roundups on the morning of 16 October, the Pope immediately instructed Cardinal Secretary of State Maglione, to make a protest to the German ambassador. After the meeting, the ambassador gave orders for a halt to the arrests. Earlier, the Pope had helped the Jews of Rome by offering gold towards the 50 kg ransom demanded by the Nazis. [101]

Other noted rescuers assisted by Pius were Pietro Palazzini [102] Giovanni Ferrofino, [103] Giovanni Palatucci, Pierre-Marie Benoit and others. When Archbishop Giovanni Montini (later Pope Paul VI) was offered an award for his rescue work by Israel, he said he had only been acting on the orders of Pius XII. [101]

Pius' diplomatic representatives lobbied on behalf of Jews across Europe, including in Vichy France, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovakia, Germany itself and elsewhere. [93] [101] [104] [105] [106] [107] Many papal nuncios played important roles in the rescue of Jews, among them Giuseppe Burzio, the Vatican Chargé d'Affaires in Slovakia Filippo Bernardini, Nuncio to Switzerland and Angelo Roncalli, the Nuncio to Turkey. [108] Angelo Rotta, the wartime Nuncio to Budapest and Andrea Cassulo, the Nuncio to Bucharest have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.

Pius directly protested the deportations of Slovakian Jews to the Bratislava government from 1942. [109] He made a direct intervention in Hungary to lobby for an end to Jewish deportations in 1944, and on 4 July, the Hungarian leader, Admiral Horthy, told Berlin that deportations of Jews must cease, citing protests by the Vatican, the King of Sweden and the Red Cross. [110] The pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic Arrow Cross Party seized power in October, and a campaign of murder of the Jews commenced. The neutral powers led a major rescue effort and Pius' representative, Angelo Rotta, took the lead in establishing an "international Ghetto", marked by the emblems of the Swiss, Swedish, Portuguese, Spanish and Vatican legations, and providing shelter for some 25,000 Jews. [111]

In Rome, some 4,000 Italian Jews and escaped prisoners of war avoided deportation, many of them hidden in safe houses or evacuated from Italy by a resistance group organized by the Irish-born priest and Vatican official Hugh O'Flaherty. Msgr. O'Flaherty used his political connections to help secure sanctuary for dispossessed Jews. [112] The wife of the Irish ambassador, Delia Murphy, assisted him.



Ho Feng Shan – Chinese Consul in Vienna started to issue visas to Jews for Shanghai, part of which during this time was still under the control of the Republic of China, for humanitarian reasons. Between 1933 and 1941, the Chinese city of Shanghai under Japanese occupation, accepted unconditionally over 18,000 Jewish refugees escaping the Holocaust in Europe, a number greater than those taken in by Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and British India combined during World War II. After 1943, the occupying Nazi-aligned Japanese ghettoised the Jewish refugees in Shanghai into an area known as the Shanghai ghetto. Many of the Jewish refugees in Shanghai migrated to the United States and Israel after 1948 due to the Chinese Civil War (1946–1950).


The Japanese government ensured Jewish safety in China, Japan and Manchuria. [113] Japanese Army General Hideki Tōjō received Jewish refugees in accordance with Japanese national policy and rejected German protest. [114] Chiune Sugihara, Kiichiro Higuchi, and Fumimaro Konoe helped thousands of Jews escape the Holocaust from occupied Europe.


Between 1938 and 1941, around 20,000 Jews were given visas for Bolivia under an agricultural visa program. Although most moved on to the neighboring countries of Argentina, Uruguay and Chile, some stayed and created a Jewish Community in Bolivia. [115]

The Philippines

In a notable humanitarian act, Manuel L. Quezon, the first Commonwealth of the Philippines, in cooperation with United States High Commissioner Paul V. McNutt, facilitated the entry into the Philippines of Jewish refugees fleeing fascist regimes in Europe, while taking on critics who were convinced by fascist propaganda that Jewish settlement is a threat to the country. [116] [117] [118] Quezon and McNutt proposed to have 30,000 refugee families on Mindanao, and 40,000-50,000 refugees on Polillo. Quezon gave, as a 10-year loan to Manila's Jewish Refugee Committee, land beside Quezon's family home in Marikina. The land would house homeless refugees in Marikina Hall, dedicated on 23 April 1940. [119]

Flashback: Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum / Safdie Architects

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The rebuilding of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum includes a new visitors’ center (Mevoah), a new history museum replacing the existing museum constructed in 1953, a Hall of Names, a synagogue, galleries for Holocaust art, an exhibitions pavilion and a learning and visual center. In addition, new underground parking and facilities for tour buses are located adjacent to a new entrance piazza. The overall program quadruples the permanent exhibition space. The mevoah is an arcaded concrete pavilion roofed by skylights and trellises, which cast ever-changing shadow patterns. It is reminiscent of a Succah. The lower level accommodates a restaurant and other public services. The historic museum consists of a mostly underground prismatic structure 16.5 meters high and 183 meters long (54 x 600 feet) that cuts through the Yad Vashem hillside, penetrating from the south and protruding to the north. A network of skylit underground galleries lines both sides of the prism.

The Hall of Names, located toward the end of the historic museum, is a conical structure extending upward 9 meters (30 feet) and housing the personal records of all known Holocaust victims. A reciprocal cone, penetrating deep into the Jerusalem bedrock below, echoes the upper chamber and commemorates those whose names will never be known. The 20-hectare (50-acre) site also includes the Children’s Holocaust Memorial and the Transport Memorial, designed by Moshe Safdie and completed in 1987 and 1995, respectively, as well as the Hall of Remembrance, administrative offices, an education and archival center and the Valley of the Communities.

Text provided by Safdie Architects.

History of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum

Yad Vashem started as an organization in 1953 to document the memory of Holocaust victims. It also detailed the history of the Jewish people during the Holocaust for remembrance by future generations.

The new Yad Vashem opened in 2005. Shaped as a prism penetrating the mountain, the museum’s architecture sets the atmosphere for the 9 chilling galleries of interactive historical displays which present the Holocaust in many ways. These include photographs, films, documents, letters, works of art, and personal items found in the camps and ghettos.

The museum leads into the Hall of Names, an eerie space containing over three million names of Holocaust victims. These names come from their families and relatives. Names can still be submitted by visitors to the memorial and added to the computerized archive. Visitors are able to search through the records.

In addition to the Holocaust History Museum, the Yad Vashem campus has a number of other memorials you can visit. These include the Hall of Remembrance. Here, the ashes of the dead are buried and an eternal flame burns in commemoration. It also houses Yad Layeled, the children’s memorial. This commemorates the one and a half million Jewish children who perished in the Holocaust. The Memorial to the Deportees is a railroad car hanging over the cliff on the road, winding down the mountain. This commemorates those who were deported.

The Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations has over 2,000 trees. These stand in honor of non-Jews who endangered their lives in order to rescue Jews from the Nazis.

Holocaust survivor who led Yad Vashem memorial dies at 94

JERUSALEM -- Yitzhak Arad, a Holocaust survivor and scholar who was the director of Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial for more than two decades, has died at the age of 94, the center said Thursday.

Arad served as chairman of Yad Vashem from 1972 to 1993 and remained involved in the center until his final days, serving as the vice-chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, it said.

He was born Yitzhak Rudnicki in 1926 in a town that was then in Poland and is now part of Lithuania.

His parents were among the 6 million Jews killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II. He managed to escape and joined the Soviet partisans in 1943, at the age of 16. He remained with them until the end of the war, fighting the Nazis in Belarus and Lithuania.

He emigrated to Israel in 1945 and served in the Israeli military, mainly in an armored brigade. He went on to become a widely published scholar of World War II and the Holocaust, lecturing at Tel Aviv University and as a guest professor at Yeshiva University in New York.

In 2004, he was awarded Yad Vashem’s annual Buchman Memorial Prize for his book, “The History of the Holocaust: Soviet Union and the Annexed Territories.” His 2009 book, “The Holocaust in the Soviet Union,” won the National Jewish Book Award.

“What happened in the past could potentially happen again, to any people, at any time," Arad said while working on a photography project at Yad Vashem last year.

"Be very clear about this: Do not count yourselves among the murderers, and may you never find yourselves among the victims,” he said.

Ronen Plot, the acting chairman of Yad Vashem, said Arad “belongs to a vanishing generation, a generation of survivors, partisans, IDF fighters, memorial fighters.”

“Every farewell to a Holocaust survivor is a reminder to us that now the work of remembrance rests on our shoulders even more,” he said.

Yad Vashem - History

In March of 2000, Pope John Paul II conducted an historic week-long pilgrimage to the Holy Land, visiting several sites in Israel for the first time including the location in Bethlehem believed to be the birthplace of Jesus.

In Jerusalem, the Pope visited Yad Vashem, Israel's main Holocaust memorial, to pay tribute to the six million Jews killed by the Nazis from 1938-45. During the Nazi era, the Pope had been a seminary student in his native country of Poland, which was also the location of the largest Nazi death camps including Auschwitz, Treblinka and Majdanek. Jewish friends and neighbors of the Pope had been killed by the Nazis.

At Yad Vashem, the frail Pope first laid a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance at a massive granite slab that covers the cremated remains of some of the unidentified Jews killed in death camps. He then ceremoniously lit the eternal flame. Among those present during the ceremony was Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, whose mother's parents had been killed at Treblinka. Also in attendance were 50 Holocaust survivors, including 13 originally from the Pope's hometown of Wadowice, Poland, several of whom remembered the Pope as a child. The entire event was broadcast live on Israel's two major TV networks.

The Pope's visit was not without controversy, however, as debate continued in Israel and elsewhere over whether or not the Catholic Church owed an apology to Jews for failing to sufficiently come to their aid during the Holocaust. During the Nazi era, Pope Pius XII never spoke out publicly against the ongoing extermination of Europe's Jews, despite his awareness of the death camps.

At Yad Vashem, Pope John Paul II stopped short of making the apology some had hoped for, but also moved several of those at the ceremony to tears.

The words of the ancient Psalm, rise from our hearts: "I have become like a broken vessel. I hear the whispering of many -- terror on every side -- as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life. But I trust in you, O Lord: I say, 'you are my God."' (Psalms 31:13-15)

In this place of memories, the mind and heart and soul feel an extreme need for silence. Silence in which to remember. Silence in which to try to make some sense of the memories which come flooding back. Silence because there are no words strong enough to deplore the terrible tragedy of the Shoah.

My own personal memories are of all that happened when the Nazis occupied Poland during the war. I remember my Jewish friends and neighbors, some of whom perished, while others survived. I have come to Yad Vashem to pay homage to the millions of Jewish people who, stripped of everything, especially of human dignity, were murdered in the Holocaust. More than half a century has passed, but the memories remain.

Here, as at Auschwitz and many other places in Europe, we are overcome by the echo of the heart-rending laments of so many. Men, women and children, cry out to us from the depths of the horror that they knew. How can we fail to heed their cry? No one can forget or ignore what happened. No one can diminish its scale.

We wish to remember. But we wish to remember for a purpose, namely to ensure that never again will evil prevail, as it did for the millions of innocent victims of Nazism.

How could man have such utter contempt for man? Because he had reached the point of contempt for God. Only a godless ideology could plan and carry out the extermination of a whole people.

The honor given to the 'Just Gentiles' by the state of Israel at Yad Vashem for having acted heroically to save Jews, sometimes to the point of giving their own lives, is a recognition that not even in the darkest hour is every light extinguished. That is why the Psalms and the entire Bible, though well aware of the human capacity for evil, also proclaims that evil will not have the last word.

Out of the depths of pain and sorrow, the believer's heart cries out: "I trust in you, O Lord: 'I say, you are my God."' (Psalms 31:14)

Jews and Christians share an immense spiritual patrimony, flowing from God's self-revelation. Our religious teachings and our spiritual experience demand that we overcome evil with good. We remember, but not with any desire for vengeance or as an incentive to hatred. For us, to remember is to pray for peace and justice, and to commit ourselves to their cause. Only a world at peace, with justice for all, can avoid repeating the mistakes and terrible crimes of the past.

As bishop of Rome and successor of the Apostle Peter, I assure the Jewish people that the Catholic Church, motivated by the Gospel law of truth and love, and by no political considerations, is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place.

The church rejects racism in any form as a denial of the image of the Creator inherent in every human being.

In this place of solemn remembrance, I fervently pray that our sorrow for the tragedy which the Jewish people suffered in the 20th century will lead to a new relationship between Christians and Jews. Let us build a new future in which there will be no more anti-Jewish feeling among Christians or anti-Christian feeling among Jews, but rather the mutual respect required of those who adore the one Creator and Lord, and look to Abraham as our common father in faith.

The world must heed the warning that comes to us from the victims of the Holocaust, and from the testimony of the survivors. Here at Yad Vashem the memory lives on, and burns itself onto our souls. It makes us cry out: "I hear the whispering of many -- terror on every side -- but I trust in you, O Lord: I say, 'You are my God."' (Psalms 31:13-15)

Pope John Paul II - March 23, 2000

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